April 10 (Reuters) - U.S. oil major Chevron's CEO Michael Wirth was paid $26.5 million in 2023, a 12.2% boost from the prior year and above the median pay raise for employees, a securities filing showed on Wednesday.

The numbers show an increased gap between compensation for executives and Chevron's 45,511 workers.

The median annual compensation for Chevron employees in the U.S. and abroad last year rose 8.7% to $175,673. In 2022, the medium compensation for workers had dropped 12% to $161,488, while Wirth's pay had increased 4%.

Chevron's proposed

$53 billion acquisition

of oil producer Hess counted positively to Wirth's compensation, with the board saying it strengths the company’s portfolio.

The deal is pending regulatory approval and being questioned by

rival Exxon Mobil

in an arbitration procedure. Chevron's proxy statement did not provide further comments on the proposed acquisition.

Chevron said Wirth delivered Chevron’s key financial priorities, which largely focus on increasing shareholder returns and paying debt.

Chevron distributed a record $26.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and buybacks in 2023, up 18% from the prior year.

Mark Nelson, the second-highest paid executive, was promoted to vice chair last year and got a 61.5% increase to $12.2 million last year.

The figures do not represent the actual realizable compensation as it includes equity-based awards - the value of which is not known until options are exercised or stock is sold.

Chevron last year underperformed its peers with its shares dropping 15% to $149.

The CEO’s non-equity incentive plan compensation dropped 42% to $2.6 million, with Wirth being punished for cost and schedule slippage on Chevron's major project in Kazakhstan and capital expenditures overruns in the U.S. Permian Basin.

(Reporting by Sabrina Valle in Houston and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Varun H K)